Sunday, April 29, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mad at Howard Dean for this one!

The following words come from The Drudge Report's Flash News, which will change quickly of course. For now you can find the link here.

This is what makes me so mad. Howard Dean is saying that Rudolph Giuliani's private life is a serious problem for him politically. Then when asked to be specific he says, "No, I'm not going to get into that stuff. I don't like attacking people on their personal lives...."

Excuse me!? What the heck do you call this, Mr. Dean? I have felt the sting of false allegations, and/or exaggerated claims by politically motivated people, who are suave enough to make it sound like they really are filled with integrity, and kindness, when in fact they are cruel, and self-serving. This smacks of sickening politics.

Sorry to get political on you, here on my blog, but this frosted my dome tonight! So read below, and let me know how you feel.

DNC Dean Says Giuliani's 'Personal Life Is A Serious Problem'
Fri Apr 27 2007 09:37:49 ET

Democratic party chairman Howard Dean said on Thursday that Rudy Giuliani "personal life is a serious problem."

Dean sent the warning on CNN's SITUATION ROOM with host Wolf Blitzer.

Chariman Dean said the former New York City Mayor "has a lot of character issues that he has to answer for. And overwhelmingly, Americans are going to vote on honesty and integrity.... We've begun to reach out to evangelical Christians, and that's a real problem for him. His personal life is a serious problem for him."

BLITZER: Well, describe those character issues...

DEAN: No, I'm not going to get into that stuff. I don't like attacking people on their personal lives, but I can assure you that in the Republican primary, given what went on in the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina between George Bush and John McCain, those attacks will be made in the Republican Party.


Yeah, this will be developing, and hopefully I will not be developing anger issues.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One More Reason Tea Rules

Yes, that dark evil brew coffee was birthed in heart of the devil, but tea is the nectar of angels. Another piece of evidence that tea is cool comes from this BBC article.

Join me in the tea revolution! It's time to take back the leaves from the British who overtaxed us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feet, Hands, Kisses and Living Hilariously

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." (Luke 7:36-39)

Jesus is having dinner with the Pharisees. While at this religious leader's home, the unthinkable happens. A woman of sinful reputation begins to wash his feet with her tears, wipe fragant ointment over his feet, and even kiss his feet. Now the owner of the home in which Jesus is a guest finds this behavior unimaginably repulsive. Doesn't Jesus know this woman is a person of bad reputation? A sinner? Doesn't he realize that he is allowing this sinful woman to make an embarrassing spectical here in the Pharisee's own home? Perhaps Jesus would have been well advised to tell this woman to go her way, and give thanks to God in a traditionally acceptable manner. Something like a sacrifice at the temple, or sharing the good news of her thankfulness for forgiveness with all her friends might be a more acceptable manner to show appreciation, but this - this looks she and Jesus must have a "thing" going on. After all, word will get around, and no doubt someone will even write it down for all posterity.

How is it that Jesus allowed the dinner at the respected leaders house to turn into a controversial interaction with a woman with a bad reputation?

I know about such moments. I have lived them, and I have experienced the weight of religious repulsion, and judgment which comes from such moments. The genesis of all our denominational trouble last year was tied to a picture with me greeting a B Horror Movie actress who played a voluptuous Vampiress. I did not not know the photos were on the internet, or had forgotten, or something. They were taken at an innocent moment, when I greeted the actress as she strolled the streets of Salem in full costume, with some of my Pagan friends in town. I was working on our outdoor stage, and saw them pass by. I jumped off the stage, and greeted her as I would anyone in full Victorian regalia. She held out her hand, I took it, and said, "Good to meet you Countess." I bowed to kiss her hand, but only did a mock version, and never actually kissed her hand, or her large spider ring. Someone snapped a few photos. I said, "Now don't you get me in trouble with that," and I ran off to get back to work. The innocent 2 minute interaction was witnessed by Diane, one of our church council members at the time.

Perhaps I should have considered the possible ramifications of treating an actress with a "reputation" in such a familiar manner. What if someone thought we had a "thing?" What if word got aroound? What if it would be written down for all the world to see?

Oh dang, it did get around - the whole world did hear about it. It made the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but even before that, it made the District office, and the denominational headquarters, and they decided to remove me from the denomination - without really checking on the issue sufficiently. Instead they took the word the Pharisees who said I was a compromiser.

Well, even some people who have sided with me have thought that this moment was somehow my undoing, and must have therefore also been my fault. I wonder why Jesus did not stop the woman who kissed his feet? Of course, 2,000 years later we extol the foresight of Christ who allowed the moment to occur, and saw that it taught a lesson about the judgmentalism of the Pharisees, and the compassion of Christ.

I am not sure if the moment were to present itself again that I might not do the same. The playful silliness of Halloween in Salem provides the opportunity to create moments of acceptance in the interactions which occur. Perhaps I am the only Evangelical Christian Pastor to ever be comfortable enough around the Countess Bathoria to greet her hilariously, and to tell her that I was pleased to make her acquaintance. Even that falls far short of allowing her to kiss my feet at a public meal with the District Supervisor present - as Jesus did.

I had not written about this moment with any thoughtfulness until now. It was the words of friend, who mentioned this moment and felt comfortable enough to tell me that he wished this moment never occurred, which has caused me think on it a year and a half after it made trouble for me. I know it was my friend's gentle way of saying that the careless moment was in error.

Sure, the moment was careless, but I wonder if careless is sometimes the way to live. Jesus appeared careless. He could have cared less what the Pharisee thought, even while eating dinner at his house. He could have cared less that the story would make the headlines in human history. He lived carelessly toward the Pharisees, and caringly toward the woman. He lived hilariously, and I hope to someday to live as hilariously, and carelessly as He does.

My friendships with the Pagan community have grown exponentially in the last few months. I am sure that photo ops will present themselves in the future, and I will look like I am living carelessly among people whom the Christian community thinks are people of bad reputation. Yet I hope that I will be walking the path of Jesus: living hilariously among those He (and myself) loves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finding Grace in Those So Different Than Ourselves

This is a picture of a kissing gate. I may have passed through this same gate with my wife on a walk through Wales about 4 years ago around this same time. It is called a kissing gate, because only one person can pass through at a time, and the man can demand a kiss before letting the girl pass through. Somehow it reminds me of the interactions of fellowship which randomly occur in life. We have our moments of passing into true fellowship, and they surprise us like the demand of a kiss at the kissing gate.

Some of the recent interactions of deeper connection, and grace have occured with people whom I might not have expected such freedom of relationship (if I were thinking like a typical Evangelical): a gay Pagan man whom I knew did not quite trust me but somehow we came to new appreciation of one another, an Occultist with a tough exterior who showed a gentle heart which surprised me, a middle-aged female Witch whose seeking led her to spend all afternoon asking about our church, an extremely liberal female pastor with a foot in cast and heart for mission, a liberal pastor whose primary interest was saving the planet, and an evangelical pastor who played 40 questions with my life and made it feel like a game between friends.

I wonder if Jesus found comfort spending time with people who were remarkably different from Himself? He speaks of His discussion with the Samaritan woman, and says, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Was there something about that interaction which fed His soul? Did he find the dialogue comforting like a good meal with friends? Or should I assume that He was fed merely by the fact that He served God? Was there no satisfaction in the relational interaction with the woman at the well?

This Samaritan woman wasn't a well studied theologian, or a deeply prayed-up disciple. She was a common sinner - a spiritual ragamuffin. She was a seeker, but a clumsy one at best.

I have been finding myself less comforted by those who speak the typical language of the churched, and more drawn to and "fed" by those who question church as we know it today, and so I ask myself this question: Am I sensing the "food to eat of which you do not know" as Jesus spoke of it, or is something else going on in my heart?

Having to forge new relationships is the nature of the season I am living in, and strangely, ministers whose theology is dramatically different than my own, and seekers whose ideas of religion are only remotely similar to my own at best often offer a deeper refreshing than preachers whose theologies are most like mine. Does this mean I am finding new food for the soul? I am not sure, but it's worth a thought. What do you think? Can we find refreshing in mission itself?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 4)

As the fourth part in a continuing series, you can follow the first 3 parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

A Grand Opening Surprise

March 19th came, and we held a grand opening of our new facility. A morning service, followed by an invitation to friends and acquaintances in the community to visit our space throughout the day, as live music, food, and free Dream Interpretation was being offered. In the evening we had a Storyteller's event, with a friend who played the bassoon in an orchestra who performed solo, and an another friend who was a recently celebrated local poet.

This was billed as the grand opening of The Vault - the new home of The Gathering - The Salem [denominational title here] Church. All over town invitations had been given out highlighting this opening with the denomination's name upon it.

The mayor attended the morning service, and celebrated our Grand Opening with us. Our friends from Streams Ministries came to support us, and provide the Dream Interpretation following the service. The service was attended by a few new faces, but disappointingly few for all our work, but shortly after the service that all changed. People began to pour into The Vault from noon until 5pm. Friends, city employees, friends of church members, neighbors, local business people all came to check out the new place. They laughed, they ate, they listened to live music performed by a variety of friends who came to support us with their skills. Kids ran around, people walked through the old vault. They played chess, and checkers, and had dreams interpreted. All afternoon the fun went on. As it wore down at about the 6pm, the room filled again. The lights went low. and Storytellers began. It was a magical evening, and the day which started so slowly, ended wonderfully. We laughed with friends, developed new relationships, and spoke gracefully of Jesus to the community.

Certifiable Insanity

We rested that week from the hard work which led to the success of our grand opening. To our surprise we had not had any response from the people in our own denomination. Invitations were sent to all the churches in the District, and to friends out and beyond as well. Distant friends wrote congratulations, and wished they could be present. Two of the nearby churches responded. Both regretted their inability to attend and wished us well. Not one person in leadership in the denomination either responded or attended. It had seemed that we were not on their radar screen - forgotten, ignored, or treated as wicked step-children who were expected to been seen and not heard.

Five days after our Open House I discovered why were ignored by our own denominational family. It came in the form a certified letter. On the 24th of March I was notified that our church, The Gathering, no longer held status in the denomination, and that my ordination had been removed.

The absurdity of this action was unbelievable on at least two counts: 1) This had required an action by the National Board, which took place while I was appealing actions taken by our District Supervisor. The action was taken without notifying me that the issue was before the Board, and without allowing my voice to be heard. We were removed without warning, or representation. 2) We held our grand opening on the 19th of March publicizing the local church with its denominational title, and now on the 24th of March I was notified that the Board decision had been handed down on the 8th of March and had been effective immediately. The day we held our Grand opening we were not members of the denomination, and we did not even know that this was the case!

No one in the denomination had the integrity, or courage to inform us that were being removed from the denomination. After over 20 years of service, I was dropped with a cold certified letter, ending in the sick, self-righteous sign-off "blessings."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 3)

This is the continuing story. You can catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

Is This What is Called a Appeal?

Immediately I prepared a written appeal. I sent it by e-mail, and I sent it by post. With my hard copy letter, I included our nearly 60 page defense of our ministry, and responses to the false allegations.

I received a quick reply that the Senior Supervisor was away on a family emergency, and would not return for another 3-4 days.

During these few days the District Supervisor was pressing me to hold a meeting with the District leaders he wanted to send to speak to me about my "future in the Salem [denominational title here] Church." Since an appeal to his actions was in process, I stalled setting a time for the meeting.

When I finally received a response from the Senior Supervisor in Pennsylvania, he reprimanded me for making serious accusations against the District Supervisor, and said that his position was one of supporting the decisions of the District Supervisor. I had been told by denomination's Vice President and CFO that the Senior Supervisor was the person to whom I should appeal to for my troubles with my own Supervisor, and now the same Senior Supervisor had alerted me that his only position was to defend the actions of the District Supervisors under him.

Some years previous I had heard that theatening a lawsuit was the only way to get the denomination to listen in such cases as I was facing, and rather than listen they would simply back down. I chose to believe that the higher road of relational interaction, and allowing the church to be its own court was the more honorable path, but I would soon discover that the honorable path in the eyes of God would not be honored by the men who claimed to follow Him.

The Senior Supervisor left me one narrow opportunity to have a face to face discussion with the District Leadership on equal terms. The District Supervisor wanted to send two District representatives to talk to me about my "future in the Salem [denomination title here] Church." His superior the Senior District Supervisor told me that I would have the opportunity to voice my concerns about the process which we had been abused by, and the false allegations against us.

The District Supervisor instead was insisting that I would be corrected and forced to follow some strict guidelines of correction for our "aberrant" ways.

When I held my ground, and referred back the Senior Supervisor's words who reassured me that this meeting was intended for us to voice our concerns, I stated that any further corrections would simply be error piled upon error unless we first discussed the original allegations, and what we viewed as abusive methods of correction. Based on this correspondence the District Supervisor cancelled the meeting, and it would be two months before we heard from anyone in denominational authority concerning our appeal.

Harald Bredesen Calls the President's Home

During our uncomfortable wait I received a call from my buddy Steve. Steve was at Harald Bredesen's home. Harald had heard about our dilemma, and having been to our church, and having seen my ministry in action periodically over the course of 22 years, Harald knew that the charges against us were insane.

Steve put Harald on the phone. It was always a pleasure to talk with Harald. Harald was a legend in the Charismatic movement, and had been a catalyst for many large ministries. He spoke with kings, and presidents over the course of his life, and now in his late eighties was still wildly active in ministry. No matter who you were Harald made you feel like a king.

The three of us: Steve Maddox, Harald and myself were on the phone. Harald called to tell me that he had put in a good word for me. He described a message he left on the home phone of the President of our denomination, who also happened to be a friend of his. His words to the denominational President were gracious, yet at the same time strong. His words were this, "If you allow this young man to be rairoaded out of the denomination it will be a black mark on [insert denominational name here]." As he described his actions in my defense, he raised his voice, as he always did when he got excited, and said, "I am so honored to come to your defense!"

Harald honored!? No I was honored I said, but he repeated his words as loudly as before, "I am so honored to defend you my brother!"

Harald was not the only nationally recognized leader who came to our defense, and personally called the President of the denomination. I would like to say that it had some effect, and at the very least allowed our situation to be reviewed, and judged in the light of fuller evidence, but we would not hear from anyone in denominational authority for almost two months after we appealed above our District Supervisor to the Senior Supervisor in Pennsylvania.